We continue from Magnolia Terrace.
For what must be the first time in the ten years that I’ve been doing this, Italy actually returns a Festival item from the past year’s menu. You know what they say…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t know what they tell you when you go to the Italy booth for the fortieth time, but I’m sure it’s not particularly complimentary. We’re less than six months off of Italy “literally” serving microwaved chicken fingers with a tiny plastic bowl of Ragu marinara on the side. And here we are yet again. But you know what they say…my pain, your gain.
La Regina “Margherita”: Rustic Italian Flatbread, Vine-ripened Tomatoes, Whole-Milk Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Basil – $7
In my experience, it’s never a particularly good sign when the food on the menu is listed inside of “quotation marks.” You could probably put most of the ingredients in quotations since I’m not seeing a tremendous amount of basil here. But to Italy’s credit, basil is both singular and plural, so the one small speck that we see on the slice underneath qualifies. We call this “Margherita” pizza because the green, white, and red toppings represent the Italian flag, and the dish is named after Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna, my fourth favorite Queen consort. If this pizza represented the flag of Italy, then the green stripe would be very thin, and could perhaps border a half red, half white flag. Anyway, as is tradition, you probably don’t want any part of this bland creation, with a stiff, unseasoned crust, and tomatoes that are a lot prettier in color than they are juicy in flavor. I can only imagine the sadness in the tomato vines as the mothers and fathers watch their children ripen, only to be sent off to the Italy booth to be set atop such hard, tasteless bread. It’s possible that Via Napoli’s ovens couldn’t keep up with the long lines of about-to-be-disappointed taste testers, but you would think that serving slices of their pizza out here at the booth would be a good advertisement for guests who might consider more expensive meals inside one of the pavilion’s restaurants. After eating this, I’d probably cancel any plans I had to visit Italy, and maybe Europe altogether.
Value: Not great, Bob
Ravioli: Grilled Chicken Ravioli with Spring Vegetables and creamy Pesto Sauce – $9
Somehow, all three of the dishes carry the smiling strawberry designation on the menu, which officially means that they’re “kid-approved.” There is literally no chance that five-year-old me would give the thumbs up to chunky slices of tomato topping pizza with no sauce, but it’s possible that the reason why the pizza is so bland is because they force-fed some poor kid slice after slice until it was so flavorless that he finally relented and said, “Okay, okay, put the dang strawberry on the menu.”
Anyway, I actually liked the creamy, herb-y pesto sauce that covers these four ravioli squares, but there was a scant amount of chicken involved, to the point where I think someone forgot to fill every other pillow of pasta. The vegetables on top freshen up the dish, and add some much needed texture to the mushy ravioli, but I couldn’t help feel like we were missing the key ingredient. You can sort of see a ring of something in the raviolo on the top left of the pile, but just the weight of the sauce is causing the pasta on the right to cave in on itself. This is not good. As one of the most expensive dishes at the entire Festival, and after coming away with a bucket of seafood for less money at Magnolia Terrace just one Outdoor Kitchen before, it’s hard to recommend plunking down 7.97 Euro here.
Value: Not great, Bob
Zeppole: Ricotta Cheese Fritters, Powdered sugar, Raspberry Sauce and Chocolate-hazelnut Drizzle — $7
Not only do these delicious Ricotta Cheese Fritters return, but they don’t even increase in price over last year. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that God doesn’t exist. These Zeppole hail straight from Via Napoli inside the Pavilion and are fried-up fresh inside the booth. The Fritters enjoy an airy, pillow-y softness with a light and crispy fried exterior. The Chocolate-hazelnut sauce adds a delicious, rich nuttiness to the flavor profile before the Fritters are dipped into the sweet, fresh-tasting berry sauce. Seven dollars “feels” like a fair price to pay for six or seven sizable donuts. I haven’t been this un-mad at an Italian offering since the Meatballs they served here from Tutto Gusto a few years ago.
Frozen Italian Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila – $10
The Italian Margarita is actually a good option on the frozen drink front – it’s a huge portion compared to the small cups you’ll get at the Disney-operated booths and the slush is well balanced between sweet and sour flavors.
Bellini: Sparking Wine and Peach Purée – $10
It’s somehow a good thing that the Bellini(s) are pre-mixed for the Festival. It was actually really refreshing this year with fresh, vibrant peach flavors.
Don’t get the beer or wine. The small pours on the wine almost always cost more than an entire bottle from the store, and while the Peroni isn’t Moretti, $5.50 is a ridiculous price to pay for a six-ounce cup, at least a third of which will end up being foam. The beer is better and cheaper at Magnolia Terrace behind us and The Bauernmarkt ahead of us.
I’d consider a stop here for the delicious Zeppole and you might add an Italian Margarita to the mix if you’re in the mood.
This is actually an up year for the Pavilion. Consider taking advantage!